In Conversation with Marley Hutchinson

Interview Timothy Frazier
Images Marley Hutchinson 

TF: How did you get into photography? 

MH: I first got interested in photography like many, by finding an old camera and just photographing anything and everything. At the time I had studied Film & TV production so I had a keen interest in the visual arts prior to that. After a year or so of messing around with shooting, I became part of an online photography forum and got introduced to many of the great masters of photography by my peers. William Eggleston and Joel Meyerowitz’s work stood out most to me at the time.

TF: Tell me about your series, Canadian West.

MH: The project stemmed originally from an interest in the United States. For many the American road trip is a rite of passage, and I was not free of it’s allure. Despite that, after living in Canada for 3 years, I realised that whilst so many documentary photographers have focused on the U.S, I hadn’t seen much work that focused on Canada in the same way. (I later learned that it does exist, there is just less of it and it isn’t as widely known). After that I decided to turn my focus onto Canada. I set out across the Western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, travelling over 4600km by car to explore and document the West.

MH: I aimed to diverge from a common narrative of Canada, beautiful scenery, lakes, mountains, usually viewed within the framework of outdoor activities: hiking, camping, climbing (or posting on social media.) Instead I decided to focus on the more ordinary, documenting farmers, rural towns, rodeo participants, cultural events, city streets, stark landscapes and endless roads. I decided to consciously omit most well known Canadian motifs in an effort to shed some light on some lesser known aspects about the culture.

TF: How (if in any way) has living in Vancouver shaped the way you photograph?

MH: Hmm, I’m not sure if it has too much. I draw a lot of inspiration from photographers who aren’t/weren’t based here, and also different era’s. I feel more like I’m imprinting my perception onto it in many ways, rather than the other way around. Although, I am very inspired by the work of Fred Herzog, who made his most famous works about Vancouver. Unfortunately it looks nothing like his photographs here now, so much has changed.

TF: In what way has studying film production contributed to your photographic process?

MH: I think mostly by having the opportunity to be exposed to different types of cinematography and the different concepts that allowed me to explore and unpack the deeper themes behind the scene & plot: archetypes, symbolism e.t.c. Some of that came later though via realisations after I had finished my studies, but it allowed me to have a decent background of understanding on it.

TF: Can you talk about how you approach a commissioned project, vs how you generally approach a personal project? What are the similarities and differences?

MH: Absolutely. A big difference between a commissioned project and a person project lies in the amount of control you get over process. One aspect of a commissioned project is figuring out how much creative control (if any) the client wants you to have over the shoot, sometimes they want a lot of your style, sometimes a little bit, or sometimes not at all. Obviously the most creatively satisfying are the ones when you get most control, but all are great opportunities to work with others and problem solve.

MH: Depending on the complexity and genre (documentary, fashion e.t.c) a personal project can be approached much like a commission, moodboards, planning locations e.t.c. Sometimes parts of those are left out intentionally though, for example on the road-trip I took for Canadian West, loose locations were planned to visit but much of it was up in the air, if I liked the look of somewhere I’d just stop over. It’s really nice to be able to respond naturally to the moment, as well as thinking methodically beforehand. Often a portrait shoot might go like this too, just the cameras, a few lighting scenarios planned and a bunch of props and just see where it goes. It’s great when your subject does something unexpected too, and you’re like, yes! That’s it, do that again.

TF: If you could photograph any one person from any time era, who would it be and why?

MH: Probably the french mid-century director Jean Cocteau. He was pushing the boundaries of cinema at the time with his surrealist ideas and concepts which I just love. I think if I could have photographed him, it would be a lot of fun intertwining surrealist ideas and themes into the shoot. It would probably be an experience too, he seemed like quite the character. He did a few shoots like that actually, which are worth checking out.

TF: Future plans or upcoming projects?

MH: I actually just finished putting my print portfolio together and I’m now gearing up to have some more meetings here in Vancouver before the year is up. I will also be travelling to London in January to do the same. No upcoming large-scale projects really, In many ways I’m still working on Canadian West, getting a small book together and working on getting it out there in the world a bit more. I’m stoked to get to share a little slice of Canada with people. In the meantime I’m always shooting, on the street (I always carry a camera) and a few portraits here and there.

Marley Hutchinson is a photographer currently based in Vancouver, Canadia. See more of his work at